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We're a little more than halfway through the season and this is really when the wheat is separated from the chaff.
While other teams are just beginning the process of really and truly jockeying for position all over the standings - for division leads, home ice advantage, or playoff spots - there has already been a lot of real competition -- for the basement.
There was a fair bit of debate this week among fans of certain teams with bleak outlooks on the back half of the season about when, exactly, it's safe to assume that their team is in full-on tank mode. If you're a New Jersey Devils fan, you can pretty much assume that this has been happening, with pretty strong success, since John MacLean was ‘86ed around Christmas.
But if you're a fan of the other nine teams in the league's bottom third, how can you be sure that your team and GM have fully committed themselves to the all-important art of outlosing everyone else for a favorable draft position?
No one's actually asking the players to go out and lose games, and certainly no coach or GM would ever admit that they're not playing to win every game possible and get a playoff spot - "Once you hit the postseason, anything can happen!" - but at some point the white flag has to be waved.
There is an art to tanking, one that requires a surprising amount of judgment on everyone's behalf. It's a long season. Can't drop too many without drawing suspicion (unless you're the Penguins and trying to get Lemieux or Crosby).
A coach's job is delicate indeed. He must not appear to actually have no faith that the team can win better than 50 percent of its remaining games. So how regularly do you, ahem, "rest" your No. 1 goalie? How casually do you mix lines so that your third-line center is running the pivot for your star wing to "get him going?" How many kids do you call up to "see what they've got" in favor of declining veterans who might actually know how to grind out what should be crucial one-goal losses?
But a GM's job is the real tough one. His balancing act is far more crucial because he not only has the fate of the season to consider, but also the future of the franchise. He must carefully weigh trade options, fielding offers from some teams, putting out feelers to others. Who wants who? For what? Picks, prospects or players? What's too much, what's too little?
Plus, he has to figure out exactly when to make these trades. Too early and maybe you don't get as good a return as you could have. Too late and maybe that's an extra two or three points that keeps you out of the draft lottery, or, worse, you're stuck with him because a potential trade partner found someone else.
And the toughest part has to be acting like you're not doing it. "Oh yes," everyone associated with the Calgary Flames must surely have said after getting shelled at home by the Minnesota Wild earlier this week because they put Brendan Morrison(notes) on the first line and threw a struggling Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) to the wolves, "We are totally pissed we blew that one. Still trying to figure it out. That was the worst."
Then they retreated to their offices, wrote an "L" next to the date, and laughed and laughed and laughed.
All according to plan.
P.K Subban ran over everyone's dog
Earlier this week Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban was caught up in some controversy once again, and once again it was for no readily apparent reason.
I watched this celebration about 10 times trying to figure out exactly what Subban could have done to get people wondering if it was "over the top" or "showing up his opponents."
Was it the dropping to one knee? Or maybe the fist pump? Or the fact that he went to center ice to do it? I don't get any of it. The kid scored an overtime winner in a hotly-contested game, bailing out his team from blowing a four-goal lead. Even people on the Flames were fine with it.
So why, precisely, wasn't anyone else? The real question, I guess, is what P.K. Subban did to literally everyone in the Canadian hockey media to make him hate them so much. He's got too much personality, they say. Even forgiving Darren Pang's hilarious gaffe, one has to wonder what he does that's not "the right way." Players don't think he respects the game or his opponents or whatever else they care to say about him that really has no basis other than their not liking him.
All he seems to have done, though, is be a pretty damn good, young defenseman who plays an exciting game (making things interesting both for and against the Canadiens) and helps create entertaining videos. He doesn't act like hockey is the most serious thing ever, though incidentally, this seems to be a grave offense in Montral.
This is, actually, a good thing. Lately there's been a lot of talk about this, and frankly, everyone needs to calm down. So next time Subban does something that sparks a bit of a discussion about whether it's For the Good of the Game, let's just agree that it probably doesn't really matter one way or the other and leave the kid alone.
Sid Crosby is probably going to miss the All-Star Game ostensibly due to the effects of the concussion he picked up.. whenever. But he might just have ulterior motives.
@emptynetters: Crosby doesn't want to play in the ASG since Raleigh is Ric Flair Country. He's NWO4Life.
@Old_King_Clancy: Crosby will sit out the ASG because of the possibility that hats might be thrown to celebrate a hat trick by someone else.
@DeepFriar: No ASG for Sid until a stable government is formed in Tunisia
@RyanNPike: Sid will sit out ASG because he thought Iginla should've been captain.
@OilFieldHockey: Sid will sit out ASG because he couldn't grow a mustache in time.
@MWalker_UWOJ: Sid to boycot ASG because he found out that David Steckel was chosen to replace him in the game
And your winner:
@Todrick: Crosby is skipping the All star game because he heard they have to shake hands at the end
Pearls of Biz-dom
BizNasty on Leno-style jokes: "just got a text from Mel Gibson, he wants tickets to tomorrows Yotes/kings game. Every letter was capatalized. Does that mean he is yelling?"
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